By the time a player reaches the AHL or NHL, they have already achieved a lot in their careers and made plenty of memories along the way. Each week, we’ll sit down with one of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and talk about some of the memorable “firsts” they’ve had during their careers, ranging from their first time on skates to their first goal as a pro.
Player: Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond
Birthplace: Levis, Quebec
Years pro: 9
First time on skates: “I was 3. I hated it. I quit hockey because I was playing with older kids. They were 4. They had more skating experience and I was struggling. At 5, I started again and loved it ever since.”
First team: “It was in Levis, where I’m from. We had Edmonton Oilers outfits and we were called the Falcons. It was a great bunch of kids and I’m still in touch with most of my teammates. Everyone played goalie for one game because we wall wanted to try it.”
First coach: “Jeff Maheu coached me in pee wee. He was a great guy and always wanted to help the kids out.”
First time you won anything: “It was a big hockey tournament when I played bantam. In Rimouski. I was 12 or 13 and my mom saved the picture.”
First time hockey took you away from home: “I was 18. I left to go play juniors at Baie-Comeau. I was never drafted in junior but invited to training camp. I went for a tryout and they told me I could stay if I wanted to. I decided to stick around but it was hard. I didn’t have the money to buy a car and I didn’t really have any freedom. But it was a small town and I met some great people. It was hard leaving the family nest, but the transition into hockey was easy.”
First pro contract: “I ended up signing a two-way with the United Hockey League and Albany in the AHL. You have expectations and I’m expecting to make like $500,000 but I ended up making $25,000. I’m like ‘Really? What’s going on here?’ I ended up playing in the UHL, a league I never heard of before. But I made it work. You have to grind it out and work for what you’ve got.”
First pro fight: “It was in Flint, against the Generals in the UHL. My first two games in the UHL I didn’t fight. I was really intimidated. Coming out of junior, I had 38 fights my last year. In pro, I thought I would fight as much, but I would see the size of those guys and thought how am I going to fight 40 times in this league? I got my first pro fight in Flint — two fights in the same game. Get it out of the way and I felt great. It was all mental.”
First time you faced adversity in your hockey career: “My first year in the UHL. I broke my hand in December and at the same time my junior team was trying to bring me back for one more year. They wanted me to be a leader and pay me good money. For a month I was injured. I was a 20-year-old kid, didn’t speak English, missed my girlfriend, first time in the states and my junior team was trying to get me back. I ended up sticking around in the UHL and, two weeks after I said ‘no’ to my junior team, I got called up to Albany.
“Later on in my career, I had labrum surgery and was out for six months. I had no contract, no job. I didn’t know what was going to happen, so that was a tough time, too.”